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“In the last year I’ve collected more than a million points”

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“In the last year I’ve collected more than a million points”

Million Mile Secrets“In the last year I’ve collected more than a million points”Million Mile Secrets Team

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Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where renowned mile and point gurus share their insights on having Big Travel with Small Money!

Miles & Points Interview: Ben, The Man Of a Thousand Places

Ben of The Man of a Thousand Places wants to travel the world and posts some very interesting and unique content on his blog.  He’s also a finance nerd like me, so I love his detailed analysis and spreadsheets!

The Man of a Thousand Places - Interview with Ben
Ben and Melissa In Pompei

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

For a long time I was under the mistaken impression that extraordinary travel opportunities were simply beyond my reach. I scrimped and saved for years to be able to see some amazing parts of the world.

Finally, a little over a year ago I got my act together and put my point accumulating efforts into high gear. In the last year I’ve collected more than a million points (with the help of my wife, of course).

Why did you start The Man of a Thousand Places? What’s special about it?

The world is a big place. If I’m going to see all of it, I will need to use every resource I have and every trick I can learn. I wanted a place where I could document my travels and share my experience with others.

Also, I want other people to appreciate that great adventures are within their reach.  Everyone should have the opportunity to experience the thrill that comes from discovering new places. By using some of the resources on my site, more people should be able to do so.

What’s the one single thing most people can do to get more miles?

Clearly, credit card sign-up bonuses are the best source of quick, easy miles and points. After that, focusing on a select number of programs will be most beneficial. Everyone should have a free membership to all of the major programs, but concentrating your efforts on one or two is a key point.

Since many people are serviced by just one airport often with one dominant airline, their flight options may be somewhat limited by that program, or at least one airline alliance. By learning all about the Terms and Conditions, what it takes to gain elite status, and how upgrading rules work, a person will be able to maximize the benefits they receive through a program.

Most people simply don’t have the time to learn this much about more than one or two airlines. This goes for hotel programs, too.

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

My wife and I took a trip to Italy and France a few years ago that was mostly paid for using points and miles; our airfare and about half of our hotels were free!

In Italy, we spent time in Sicily, along the Amalfi Coast, and in Cinqueterre, In France, we were mostly in Normandy and Paris. We saw some amazing places, created some unforgettable memories, and can’t wait to do it again!

What do your family and friends think of your miles and points hobby?

Some of my family and friends are just as industrious as I am, when it comes to collecting points. We share ideas and make suggestions to each other all the time. It is a constant topic of conversation and borders on obsession. Much of my blog is dedicated to my friends and family who think I’ve lost my mind.

Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?

Lately, I’ve been wishing I could download the entire FlyerTalk forum into my brain. There is such a vast amount of information and knowledge shared on the site that it staggers the imagination. It is an incomparably useful resource as a points junkie.

The drawback is that information can be disorganized and hard to find. (Imagine ten thousand people having interesting and useful conversations at one time and trying to parse the useful information.) It is an intimidating resource for the novice, but a great one once you’ve learned to navigate the madness.

What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?

Just by asking for them! I may have asked because I was a long time cardholder and there was a particularly good promotion in the market that I felt penalized my loyalty or simply because a better offer came up after I had applied for a card.

I am continually surprised at the lengths some companies will go to in order to keep customers happy. You may not get what you ask for every time, but there are lots of points being given away. You might as well put your hand out!

What do you know now about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?

I wish I had known how frequently you can get a bonus for the same card. A couple years ago I had thought that a sign-up bonus was a once in a lifetime deal and I didn’t want to squander the opportunity before I really needed it.

In some cases this may be true, but in many cases it is very far from the truth. That’s why tools like FlyerTalk exist. If only I had known sooner!

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

I don’t particularly like flying. I know, it sounds crazy, but the novelty of being on a plane wore off for me quite a while ago. I’m all about the destination. This may have something to do with my travel style, though.

I rarely fly first class and I will neither pay nor redeem miles to do so. When I think about using my points, I focus pretty heavily on opportunity cost. If I have 100,000 miles to spend, I would much rather redeem them for two trips to Europe in coach instead of one trip in business or first class.

I’m still young enough that I can tolerate the discomfort of a transoceanic flight reasonably well. Doubling the number of times I am able to travel is an easy decision for me. This changes the way I value points and miles and the effort I will expend to accrue them, but it suits my travel goals best.

Any parting words?

Collecting points is a game, not a race. Take time to learn the “rules of the game” and map out your strategy. Figure out what is important to you and then pursue it.

There’s no reason you won’t reach your goals with a little effort and determination.

Ben – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!

So check out The Man of a Thousand Places if you’re looking for more ways to earn miles and points!

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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I was not familiar with this blog before but I’m definitely going to start checking it out. I have a similar philosophy about getting 2 coach flights instead one premium flight. In this case, it is the destination and not the journey!

@bluto – You make a good point that sometimes people have more miles than time. I think this is the exception to the rule, though. For people in this situation, they would certainly be willing to exchange their miles for first class tickets. As a result, the rate of exchange (i.e. cost of ticket/miles used) is high. On the other had a person flush with miles might also opt for a higher redemption level since the miles have a marginally lower value than someone who has just enough time use his/her miles. On the other end of the spectrum, redeeming points for coach airfare will get you to the most destinations on a limited number of points. As compared to the first class ticket, the value of the coach ticket is low relative to the points that are redeemed. This results in a low rate of exchange. The point is, people have different travel habits based on their resources and preferences. These habits and preferences result in different mile valuations for different people. I have placed some tools on my website to help each person determine how much a mile is worth to them based on their travel preferences. Check it out and let me know what you think!

@karen – The explanation is too long for a comment. I’ll put it on the list of topics to discuss in the future. The short answer is that you have to read the Terms and Conditions of the different card options. After that, you need to learn which companies enforce their own terms. It can be tricky and is poorly documented. The important thing is that even if you’ve had a card in the past, there is a good chance you can get it again.

@Katherine – I love your advice. It’s not hard to find travel opportunities that the whole family will enjoy and remember for a long time!

@EricT – Our travel ambitions have definitely been curtailed with the little one (mostly domestic as of late). Still, she loves an adventure as much as we do. Tip: Never take a connecting flight with an infant when a direct flight is available. We learned this the hard way by spending 9 hours in the Atlanta airport when we missed a connection. Having a little one definitely changes things, but she’s about to get her passport and we’re looking forward to some great adventures!

Katherine…thanks for the reinforcement in taking her. She’s been to a few places via airplane her first year, but all in continental US (Hawaii is on tap in 3 weeks). And good point about her loving the memories. My fondest family memories as a child were of Disney, Yosemite, San Francisco, Yellowstone, etc… not playing with my toys at home.

@EricT – We have traveled with my sister’s children since they were infants. After 13 years of traveling with them, they have been to 30 states, 5 provinces, Mexico, Italy and England. They talk about the trips that they have taken and they each now have a wish list a mile long of where they want to go. Unfortunately, I am not talking easy places. Tahiti, China, France seem to be on the table for now. When you ask them if they want presents for Christmas or a trip – the answer is always a trip!

My sister never carried a lot of items for her. Diapers and formula can be bought while on vacation (even overseas). The umbrella stroller is your friend. The baby/toddler can fall asleep and you keep sightseeing. On long trips have something that plays video.

Most importantly, travel light. No need to take the entire toy box. We spent 3 weeks in Italy with one small suitcase per person.

In the states, a lot of museums have scavenger hunts for kids (older and younger). You might have to add in a child friendly attraction or two, there are children’s museums and zoos in a lot of cities. If Mommy and Daddy are enjoying something, your children will too. At least until they become teenagers!

Don’t wait until your children are older, you NEVER know what will happen. Giving your children a love of travel is one of the best gifts that you can give!

@bluto good point. Also it’s a lifetime experience for first class. I would not be that rich to pay cash for a first class but it makes you feel quality life if you ever have chance to take a first class flight.

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